Surprise Billing Legislation May Go Federal

The fight against surprise medical billing may get a leg up from the federal government if President Trump gets his way. Last week, the President and other White House officials voiced support for a congressional ban on surprise medical bills by barring hospital contracts with physicians who aren’t in the same network as the rest of the hospital, Modern Healthcare reports.

The fight for more patient protection from surprise or balance billing has been raging in Texas for years, as subsequent bills have added mediation to the process, with the latest version of a bill including an arbitration piece that will decide who pays what when a surprise bill is more than $500. Providers and insurers have been lobbying heavily around this issue at the state and national level, pushing to make sure they get fair treatment when these bills are decided. The portion of the Texas bill that calls for a arbitration with decision-making power rather than mediation by the Texas Department of Insurance worries the special interests.

President Trump said he wanted to ban surprise bills for emergency care and that patients should receive a transparent bill when they do need emergency repair, Modern Healthcare reports.

“Laying out principles for Congress to address surprise billing is another major step in President Trump’s efforts to deliver on this commitment: You, as the American patient, have the right to know what a prescription drug or healthcare service costs before you receive it,” said Health Human Services Secretary Alex Azar via release. “We aim to address surprise billing in a way that will protect American patients from this abusive practice and lay a foundation for a system where the patient is put at ease and in control. Today’s announcement follows our announcement yesterday that we have finalized the new requirement that drug companies include their list prices in television ads, which was one more step toward delivering American patients the affordability they need, the options and control they want, and the quality they deserve.”